VOIPs Rosy Future

By Ben Charny  |  Posted 2005-09-19 Print this article Print

Also, VOIP has a rosy future, according to some analysts. VOIP lines are expected to grow significantly to 25 million in the next two years, or about 20 percent of the total number of traditional home phone lines in the United States.

Another positive sign for searchable voice is that speech recognition, which plays a critical role in the process, is improving and becoming less expensive. Once just able to spot a particular word, companies including U.K.-based Autonomy, a call center specialist, has developed technology to recognize spoken phrases, a quantum leap in effectiveness.
The company also recently purchased Irving, Texas-based eTalk, a provider of call center technology.
The combination will hasten the adoption of searchable voice, believes eTalk marketing director Kathy Kuehne.

Baby steps are being taken when it comes to archiving all those calls into a searchable database, for now a big investment in machines and manpower. Its such a daunting task that Google isnt archiving the PC-to-PC phone calls capable among users of Googles relatively new GoogleTalk, its instant Messaging application. (IM is predominantly designed to be a stripped-down version of e-mail). Read more here about Googles efforts to crack the IM market. So for now, theres nothing to actually search. But Mike Jazayeri, product manager for Google Talk, wouldnt rule out an expansion of archiving capabilities in the future.

Competitive forces are also at play. Google and its competitors operate with the kind of tit-for-tat fervor in which new services such as searchable voice calls are created. The result is a hyper-competitive pressure cooker atmosphere all-but necessary to develop "killer apps" that turn industries upside down.

"Theres a variety of future things were looking at providing, but right now were just focused on getting the service out there," said Googles Jazayeri. "Theres a lot we can do with instant communications that well look at in future. There are other areas were exploring in terms of making it possible. But were certainly in a position to do it."

But for now, most of the searchable voice features are relegated to either the drawing boards of huge search companies, or used by the Department of Homeland Security to find terrorists, call center operators or small innovative companies like San Francisco-based Blinkx, which uses the technology to search through personal video Web logs and Podcasts, which are audio recordings posted on the Internet.

So itll be a long, slow slog before some search engine such as Google will spit out results that include phone calls with a particular word or phrase.

One reason is a possible consumer backlash. Already, privacy concerns abound, even though such services arent still at the gleam-in-the-eye stage. Its unnerving, say some consumers interviewed for this story, to know that Google and other search operators could conceivably offer up your phone calls for public purview.

"Im not too happy when too much personally identifiable data is collected and owned or controlled by a company," said Mikkel Svendsen, an avid computer user living in Denmark. "Im just not sure of what a company like Google would do with it as time goes by."

More tangible problems include the present-day cost of creating all the bits and pieces for just such a system. Its prohibitively expensive, even for the deep pockets of Microsoft, Yahoo and Google.

For example, while speech recognition software has made headway in automating the transcribing process, to do a credible job requires listening to every call to catch the missed words and phrases. Thats just not financially-feasible at this point.

Archiving also remains a big problem, particularly because of the enormous expense of capturing, recording and storing every phone call someone makes.

Yet, Googles Jazayeri says its conceivable that in the near future, someone could visit the Google Web site, punch in a phrase, and have phone calls appear within the results.

"Google is certainly in a position to do it," he said.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on enterprise search technology.


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